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8 reasons to care about older people's rights

06 Nov 2014

1. The number of older people worldwide is growing at an unprecedented pace.

Today, 760 million people are over 60; by 2050, that number will have risen to two billion. Older people already outnumber young children (aged 0-4) and, globally, will outnumber children under 15 by 2050. 

Older people's rights Campaigners in Indonesia (c) YEL

2. Age discrimination and ageism are widely tolerated across the world.

Ageist attitudes towards old age and older people are deeply ingrained in many societies and, unlike other forms of prejudice, are rarely acknowledged or challenged. This leads to widespread marginalisation of older people and is at the root of their isolation and exclusion.

Older people's rights Older man in Nepal (c) Sarah Hertzog/HelpAge

3. There is no dedicated protection for older people's rights.

While the rights of women, children, prisoners and people with disabilities are all protected through international conventions or standards, no such standards exist for older people despite their vulnerability to human rights abuses.

Older people's rights Myanmar grandmother

4. Older people are vulnerable to abuse and exclusion.

A growing body of evidence shows many older people face abuse and violence in their own homes and in long-term care. Many are also denied the right to make decisions about their finances, property and medical care. They are often denied social security, access to health and productive resources, work, food and housing.

Older people's rights Jamaica Woman with sign (c) Garry Witter/HelpAge

5. Older people are often treated as charity instead of having human rights that must be respected.

Many governments see ageing as a social welfare or development issue. This reduces older people to recipients of charity rather than people who should enjoy their human rights on the same basis as everybody else.

Older people's rights Bosnia Older wom

6. Older people are an increasingly powerful group.

When older people vote, they can have significant political influence. Governments need to address their rights and needs or they risk losing support from this increasingly large and loyal block of voters.

Older people's rights Serbian man (c) HelpAge

7. There are huge gaps in current human rights standards for older people.

Only one existing human rights law explicitly forbids age discrimination. This means many countries are failing to address the many forms of discrimination older people face. Any effort to tackle issues such as elder abuse or long-term and palliative care, are also absent from existing human rights standards.

Historically the United Nations has largely ignored the rights of older people while current national standards on older people's rights are patchy and inconsistent.

As a result, few countries collect data on violations of the rights of older people. Violations will continue unaddressed as long as there is a gaping lack of information on their nature, prevalence and cause.

Older people's rights South African campaigner (c) MUSA/HelpAge

8. Respect for older people's rights benefits society as a whole.

Poor treatment and abusing the human rights of older people lead to their exclusion, poverty and discrimination. Yet, older people make key contributions to any society through their experience and wisdom. Better protection of older people's rights will allow societies to better capitalise on the potential older people represent. There is clear evidence, for example, that when older people have social security, it reduces poverty rates, restores older people's dignity, reduces child labour and increases enrolment in schools.

Older people's right Colombian family (c) JonasWresch/HelpAge

A UN convention on the rights of older people would protect older people's rights under international law.

It would also provide a definitive, universal position that age discrimination and ageism are morally and legally unacceptable.

Please make the world better for the older people of today and tomorrow and get behind a UN convention on the rights of older people.

Sign our petition NOW!

Thank you.

What next?

What is life like for older people in your country? See how your country ranks in the Global AgeWatch Index - the world's only global index on the social and economic wellbeing of older people.

Your comments

Shegufta Sharmin

Simply Outstanding!!!

Mange Ram Adhana President Association for Promotion Sustainable DevelopmentHisa

Dear sir Greeting from Apsdhisar Our ngo want to join campaign ADA. And our ngo against old age discrimination, and our ngo already working on citizens empowerment and gender sensibility. Please take action in this regard. Thank you. MangeramAdhana President Association for Promotion Sustainable DevelopmentHisar Haryana India Mobile No + 91-9466206502

Hassan Khan

Pleased to be have been part of HAI since 1988

Vira TUM

I like this blog.

Roshan Ali Shah

I belong to Pakistan where majority of the people live below to poverty line even without any work. Health, education, employment,Shelter and excess to justice have become wishful thinking at grassroots level. It is happening due to the failure of state institutions on one hand . There is a amazing increase in population of the country and its resources of economic well being are used and benefited by few instead of majority on the other hand .These issues are affecting the family structure in Pakistani society where there is a anger, violence, ignorance, negligence and denial of property rights of the women, children and old age people. Frustration, Fear, illiteracy, inflation and lack of social security is going to destroy the family system like termite. Old age people especially old age women suffer more in the phenomenon.

Noel Rojo

Indeed, so lets all be united for the common good of the elderliies worldwide.

md. zahangir alam

tremendous, important for older peoples rights campaign information, information is our strength.

Usa Khiewrord

Having the UN Convention on the rights of older people will be useful for efforts to promote their rights at the regional and national levels. I am pleased to share that the rights of older people has recently received more attention in ASEAN countries, especially in the Philippines. Setting up the ASEAN Committee to promote the rights and social protection of older people was suggested, strongly supported by the representative of DSWD, Philippines and adopted at the ILO/ASEAN Tripartite seminar on strengthening social protection held in BKK this week

Momo Aiilson Bainda

The National old folks of Liberia want to strongly partner with ADA and serve as lead to organization in West Africa Liberia

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Caroline Graham
Country: United Kingdom
Job title: Communications officer

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.